Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Home Affairs

Security for events, buildings to be tightened

A "terrorist" in a shoot-out with police during a counter-terror exercise in Bishan's Junction 8 mall last October. New large-scale commercial buildings will be required to undergo a review at the design stage to determine what security measures are
A "terrorist" in a shoot-out with police during a counter-terror exercise in Bishan's Junction 8 mall last October. New large-scale commercial buildings will be required to undergo a review at the design stage to determine what security measures are needed.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

New laws this year will require businesses to adopt measures to guard against threats

Security for major events and new, large-scale commercial buildings will be improved as part of an ongoing drive to harden Singapore against the terror threat.

The Government will enact new laws this year to require businesses to adopt "certain measures" to guard against security threats, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said yesterday.

The Public Order Act will be amended to require security measures at events with large crowds and those deemed to be at high risk of terrorist attacks.

A new Infrastructure Protection Act will also be introduced, to ensure selected key buildings have enough protection. It will require new, large-scale commercial buildings to go through a review during the design stage to determine what security measures are needed.

These proposed legal changes were among various initiatives announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) to counter the terror threat that Singapore faces, which remains high.

Mr Lee said his ministry will take a "practical approach" to keep costs reasonable for businesses.

During the debate on MHA's budget, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) that the threat from terror groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) remains high.

Responding to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), the minister outlined how the Home Team is strengthening capabilities.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority has started collecting iris scans to better verify travellers' identities, he said.

And frontline police officers will soon have their revolvers replaced with pistols which carry thrice the amount of ammunition.

Last year, the police rolled out emergency response teams - crack troops to respond to terror attacks. More cameras are also being installed in public areas to boost surveillance.

The Home Team will also ramp up its use of technology, including using drones to support operations.

Singapore's tough security laws, like the Internal Security Act, also play a critical role in combating the threat, Mr Shanmugam said, adding: "We will deal with anyone who engages in conduct that is potentially a trigger for terrorism. If necessary, we will detain the person."

He highlighted two examples in Europe where the authorities had to let terror suspects go because of a lack of evidence - these men eventually went on to conduct attacks.

"We should not reach this stage in Singapore. The trade-off for us is between taking a greater risk or intervening earlier. My view is that we must be able to intervene early and decisively," he said.

Meanwhile, Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman highlighted the threat posed by fake news, citing the newspaper reports which distorted facts and led to the Maria Hertogh riots in 1950 as an example of how information attacks could divide society.

This threat is far more dangerous now with the Internet and websites that post false claims, he added.

Terror groups like ISIS are also releasing propaganda online targeting Muslims in the region, noted Dr Maliki. "Our youths who are active on social media are particularly vulnerable," he said, urging individuals who come across extremist material online to check with the local religious authorities, and then counter these views.

Mindef will also prepare its troops to counter terror threats - the new $900 million Safti City will have facilities for such training operations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Security for events, buildings to be tightened'. Print Edition | Subscribe